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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Am I looking for excuses not to believe?

Sometimes I hear Christians say that unbelievers are merely looking for excuses not to believe. The implication is that the evidence is so overwhelming that only a stubborn rebel would refuse to believe. That is just simply not the case. The evidence for the truth of evangelical Christianity is in reality pretty weak. If God were interested in providing real evidence, he certainly could have done a better job.

Dr. Matt McCormick, Professor of Philosophy at California State University, has an excellent entry on his blog about this subject. He writes:

Suppose the almighty creator of the universe with the power to control every aspect of reality had sought to achieve a state where all or most normal, thoughtful adult human beings could reflect on the evidence available to them and come to believe that he exists. Could such a being create a state of affairs where being with our powers of reasoning could consult the evidence and conclude that God is real? It would seem that bringing about such a state of affairs would be a trivial matter for such a being. I am not all powerful, all knowing, or all good, yet I can make my existence perfectly obvious to humans.

Is the current state of affairs that most human beings are in one where the existence of such a being is obvious or reasonable? There are a great many people who believe, certainly. But there are a great many who do not. There are billions of Buddhists, for example, who do not believe in the existence of an all powerful creator God. Even those people who believe are doubtful about God’s existence being obvious or clearly indicated by reason. When polled, a great many of them respond that belief in God can only come through faith. And certainly in human history we can find billions more people for whom the existence of such a being was not obvious or reasonable.

What is the evidential situation we are in regarding the Christian God? Our central piece of evidence is a book that is made up of a collection of writings by a wide range of authors. The contents of this book have been culled from a much large body of religious writings over the course of centuries that make a wide range of inconsistent claims about the existence, nature, and history of this God and his actions. Humans have done that culling to arrive at a book that is alleged to be the one, true perfect source of inerrant information about this being.

If the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe had sought to make his existence known and reasonable through that book or its stories, could he have done a better job? Could the miracles of Jesus have been bigger? Could they have been attested to by more sources? By more reliable witnesses? Could they have been reported by the original eye-witnesses instead of the hearsay reports we have? Could Jesus’ divinity have been less ambiguous? Could the same stories about a 1st century religious leader have arisen even though he was not a supernatural being? Could a more careful and systematic investigation into the stories about Jesus’ supernatural powers have been pursued? Were there people who were contemporaries of Jesus who were not convinced? Could the evidence for them have been better? Could the history of the documents that report the stories about God and Jesus have been less muddled by controversy, fragmentation, and ambiguity?

Most people would agree that the answers to all of these questions are “yes.” We can readily imagine a hundred ways in which the case for God on the basis of the Bible could have been better. It seems quite clear that if God had really intended humanity to believe on the basis of the Bible, he could have done a better job.

So, if there is a God, he/she/it created man with a large brain. Obviously, that God intended for man to use that brain. If during the course of using our minds, we find the evidence for the Bible and Evangelical Christianity to be less than convincing, can that God (assuming he/she/it is just and fair)condemn us? I hardly think so.


  1. Ken,

    The evidence for Christianity is overwhelming. If I took similar evidence into any court, I would win the case with an unbiased jury.

    I should know since I have to deal with the courts all the time.

    The ground of all knowledge is faith since we can only know things in degrees of probability. Even if you saw the resurrected Lord himself, using your worldview of naturalism, you would have to deny your senses and believe that you were hallucinating.

    The problem is not the evidence. It is your worldview that keeps you looking for a reason not to believe.

  2. HI Ken,

    Zdenny is correct. In addition your post had many presuppositions attached to it. For one, that our cognitive ability is reliable, this is the rationalist position one which Christians have shown to be be false. Second, the theological assumption that God wants to be revealed. Jesus often talks about glory to God being disclosed to the meek while hidden from the wise.


  3. ZDENNY-

    You've made a baseless claim.

    Reverend PB:

    ZDENNY is so wrong he almost went full circle and became right again. Almost.

    You see...

    The New Testament is filled with errors and contractions. If single verses aren't in conflict with each other’s claims then entire themes are found to be contradictorily negating each other.

    ***Context isn't always important when the claims are overarching about, say, God's character or laws.

    For example:

    God is love. (John 4:16)

    Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous (1 Corinthians 13:4)

    You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5)

    Logically, considering the evidence, love is kind and not jealous, God is jealous, therefore God cannot be love...

    For more on Bible contradictions and why the evidence is strictly underwhelming form the perspective of an ex-Evangelical of 3 decades, see:


  4. > The evidence for Christianity is overwhelming. If I took similar evidence into any court, I would win the case with an unbiased jury.

    That actually made me laugh out loud. Let's see shall we.

    Physical evidence? None.
    Eye witness testimony? None.
    External corroboration? None.

    Copies of self-contradictory, inadimissable hearsay written down decades after the purported events? Yep, got that.

    Contradictions with known historic events? Yep, got that.

    What kind of courts do you visit?

  5. "ZDENNY is so wrong he almost went full circle and became right again. Almost."

    I laughed really hard at that, even though I don't entirely get it! :D

  6. Hi Tristan D. Vick,

    Ah yes the sophists argument. The problem here is taking words out of context. Context gives meaning to words and simple quote mining proves nothing. But lets us look at your logic.

    A = B; B is not C; A = C. No logical fault there as you claim.

    Or what you have said.

    God = love, Love - Jealous, God = Jealous.

    Logical problem with your point is that love and Jealously qualify God. Jealously qualifies love. There is nothing inconsistent with this reasoning. God can be love and Jealous. Your logic is faulty and needs revision. A typical atheists technique.

    Regards, Rev. Phil.

  7. The Rev. Brown said, "Your logic is faulty and needs revision."

    Rev. Brown, do you believe that a talking snake tricked the first humans? Did staffs turn into snakes? Did a woman became a pillar of salt? Did a donkey speak? Did a prophet ride to heaven in a fiery chariot? Did God command a prophet to lay on his side for a year and eat food cooked over human excrement?

    Just wondering.

  8. HI SteveJ,

    Thanks for the distraction but it doesn't wash, can you answer my comments or not it looks as though not?


  9. Reverend Brown,

    I'm not going to try to decipher your strange nomenclature. It looks mathematicalesque but has nothing to do with mathematics or logic.

    There are, imho, far more egregious inconsistencies.

    However, the bible says god is love. Not has love, is love. It says love is not jealous. Therefore god should not be jealous if god is the embodiment of love and love is not jealous. The logic there is sound.

  10. @Rev. Brown: I don't have the same objections as you seem to have with Tristan's logic. He is simply pointing out that the bible says:
    - God is love
    - God is jealous
    - Love is not jealous

    Hence it would seem that we have to pick on of the first two statements to be true, not both. Since Tristan uses the bible for his comments, you need to supplement your post with some biblical defense of the statement 'jealousy qualifies love.' It would seem that the bible, being completely true would have pointed this out.

    Also, this is but one example... there are others:
    - The Father, or God of the old testament, seems very set on killing unbelievers in many circumstances... even to the point of specifically instructing the Israelites to 'cut down with the sword every single thing that breathes from among them.'
    - Jesus instructs Peter to put the sword down in the garden, for if his kingdom were of this world there would be myriads of angels ready to defend him.
    - So on one hand we have Jesus who allows himself to die because his kingdom is not of this world, but on the other hand we have the Father who seems to actually think his 'kingdom' depends extremely heavily on the population of believers of him in the world.


    - Matthew 5: not one iota of the law will pass away until heave and earth themselves pass away
    - Mark 12:30: the law and the prophets are fulfilled in loving God and one's neighbor
    - which is it? and to which law/prophets does Mark refer to? Does loving one's neighbor fulfill the command to stone a woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night? To kill the entirety of the inhabitants of Jericho? To chase after opponents after Goliath was slain even as they ran in retreat and cut them all down with the edge of the sword?

    I think while you are quick to attack the logic of the statement you miss how much one has to bend over backwards to explain the paradigm shifts that God exhibits in various places in the bible.

  11. Rev. PB-

    I see nothing out of context. If you consult the Septuagint for the Exodus translation of the word 'jealous' you'll find it is the same as that which Paul uses in Corinthians.

    So I have left it in its context to fritter. You have used an apologetic ploy of semantics to change the terminology... to the meaning you best like, not the meaning it denotes, and that is out of context. Although such a harmonization will work for your purposes, it lacks in critical scrutiny, and is too much of a sacrifice of intellectual honesty for me. But that's just me.

    I beseech you to read my article in full at: